Time trials have been implemented as part of an athletes training programme for a while, commonly in the form of a Parkrun. However, as times of isolation have arrived and racing has gone out the window, they have been used a lot more.
Many people have been desperate to find out where they are fitness wise and how training has been going by hitting the 5k or 10k distance hard, and recording themselves a time. This is made slightly easier by the competitive edge added by the emergence of virtual races. Whilst you are running a solo time trial, you are trying to beat others in the ‘virtual event’.
So, why might a time trial be a good thing to do?
Where you are at.
Time trials are the perfect way to see where your fitness is at. There is no hiding from the time you clock. Whilst doing it solo will more often than not mean that you won’t be able to push yourself quite as much as you would in a race, even without realising, you can still give it your all and get a good indication of how you fitness is fairing. This will allow you to check whether you are where your thought or not, helping you structure your training going forward.
Are changes working?
Over the lockdown period you may have been trying a few new things in relation to your training. This may have included incorporating more cross training over running, changing the way you structure your week, or experimenting with different sessions. Whatever changes you have made, running a time trial will allow you to see if these have been benefitting or hindering your progression. Either way it will have a productive effect. You don’t want to spend the entirety of lockdown doing something new, only to find out when you can finally race that it hasn’t been working for you at all.
Echo a race.
If you’re desperate to race, a time trial can partially fulfil that desire to race. Whilst the atmosphere isn’t the same, getting your legs spinning as you would in a race can leave you feeling knackered, but great, afterwards. If you want to prepare for it and give it your all, you could even ease into it from the beginning of the week as you would in a normal race situation.
That being said, time trials aren’t for everyone and they aren’t the be all and end all.
Why not to time trial?
Time trials aren’t for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Time trials can be extremely frustrating. They will either go as or better than you hoped, or a lot worse, and you can’t help but get frustrated. If you do a time trial and it goes extremely well and shows you are in really good shape, that’s great, but there are no races. You might be in the shape of our life, but you can’t smash a race and get a PB put down on paper. You may feel frustrated as you have a long time to sustain your prime position of fitness and get impatient.
Vice versa, it might not go quite as you hoped. This may consequently cause you to put too much pressure on yourself and reduce the amount of enjoyment you are getting from your training. At this uncertain time, enjoyment is key. If a time trial causes you to stress that you aren’t progressing how you would want to, don’t do it. Currently, training is so important to help boost your mood and allow you to escape from the chaos of the world, it isn’t worth taking this relaxing effect away. Additionally, the majority of us haven’t been able to train completely as normal. Whether that be having no gym, or no track, we can’t help how this may have impacted our training. Once again, a time trial may only build your frustration at the current situation.
Nothing quite like racing.
If you can’t do it properly, why do it? This may be your thought at the moment. Without the entire package of a race, including the atmosphere, the pre-race build up, the adrenaline of running among other people and the post-race excitement, is it really going to be the same doing a solo time trial? Probably not. If you aren’t going to enjoy it and you aren’t going to get the same buzz as you would from a regular race, don’t force yourself to do a time trial just because everyone else you see on Instagram is.
Time trials aren’t essential to your progression. Now is the perfect time to get in a solid, long blast of consistent training. Many of us have key sessions that indicate where we are at fitness wise and how training is going. Whether this be a 1k repeat session or a long tempo, it is quite easy to gage where you are at without doing a time trial.
So, what am I doing?
For me personally, I don’t feel that a time trial would be beneficial for me. Whilst I am desperate to be in a race environment, a time trial is ultimately not a race, and would only frustrate me. If it went well, I would be impatient to race, and if it didn’t go as hoped it would cause me to put pressure on myself. I have really begun to enjoy training fully recently and I don’t want to ruin this. I feel I will benefit more from training consistently, enjoying what I am doing, and containing that race energy until it can properly be released.
Whilst I don’t know if the training I am doing now is working, I can get a clear sense from how sessions are going whether I am heading in the right direction or not. Ultimately, you know what works best for you, so you know if they are right for you or not.
Are you time trialling, or are you enjoying training for what it is?
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!